Manet/Velazquez at the Met

The Metropolitan museum currently is showing Manet/Velazquez through the end of June. The premise is that when in 1838, King Louis Philippe opened the Galerie Espagnole at the Louvre, placing on view his extraordinary collection of hundreds of Spanish paintings French painting changed and was forever influenced by the Spanish. Whether you buy the premise or not the exhibition is extraordinary. It has 150 paintings by Velázquez, Murillo, Ribera, El Greco, and Zurbarán and masterpieces by the 19th-century French artists they supposedly influenced, among them Delacroix, Courbet, Millet, Degas, and, of course, Manet. The exhibit also includes more than 30 works by American artists such as Sargent, Chase, Eakins, Whistler, and Cassatt, who studied in France. You can see the way the compositions influenced the French and the backgrounds were done the Spanish way. The exhibit works hard to pair like subjects and compositions but a look at the painting itself shows that the French painters had another idea of what art was to look like. The Spaniards painted in the way paintings had been done since the renaissance with finished surfaces and attention to detail all in a very realistic way. One look at Manet’s paintings and you can see the subject is the paint itself. Bold strokes of color make up the facial features and realism is left behind. Certainly all the painting have recognizable subjects and the Americas Eakins and Sargent go a long way towards realism but the brushstrokes in the cloths and backgrounds are pure paint.
This is not a one visit type exhibit for two reasons. One, it is just too large to be seen on one go round and the academic challenge the curator has set up is worth thinking about. In my opinion the curator has to work to develop his premise but it is not without merit. The obvious correlation is in the compositions and the use of color. The rich earth tones are used to create subjects that grow out of the canvasses.
These shows are almost impossible to be seen on weekends. An afternoon towards the beginning of the week is best and it will have more people in it than you hope then.
I know I will be back and then it will be on to ”Art of the First Cities”.

You’ve got to love city kids these days.

Walking down Madison Avenue on a Friday afternoon can be daunting. There are office workers dashing out of every doorway and charging for the subways the bus stops or running into the streets to steal the taxi that just pulled over for a fare. A peaceful stroll it isn’t. Just as I was getting into the pace of things along came a teenager in the bus lane kicking his skate board. Madison goes north he was heading south and paid no attention to the bus that brushed by him. Behind me came his buddies weaving in and out of the pedestrians who were unnerved by the trio zipping along the sidewalk. The last of this group was younger and doing his best to keep up. As he came to a corner a woman was brought up short because he swooped right in front of her and he never slowed his pace. He kicked a couple of times to get his speed up at the same time he reached into his pocket a opened his flip cell phone. From the sound of his voice it had to be his mother. I heard him say “Yes, we’re on our way.” Skate board, baggy pants and a cell phone. The tools of daily life for the New York teenager.